Friday, November 27, 2020

They Will Remember the Carrots


Sixty years out, I think, they will remember the carrots:
how delicious they were,
fresh and crisp, newly dug and scrubbed,
pleasing in their shades of 
a muted purple, an orange and a nice turnip white.

Sixty years out, I suppose they might remember the color of their
how while they sat in their family van
they watched their mom
beg through her missing teeth, her dark eyes sad.
She had begged to five cars in a row and not even one occupant had handed her a single
dollar bill.

And then the carrots came
The sons ate them while
they waited for
the return of the woman
who gifted the carrots.
She, who drove an older-model Subaru,
not looking too prosperous.

She had said (and they hoped it was true) she would
go to her bank and return with the remainder of
the cash they needed
to get home
to Mt. Vernon
on the far side of the state.

They had slept cold in the car the night before
in a parking lot,
whose lights were like
spotlights in a prison yard
prying open their eyes
at each turning of their stiff discomfort.
The carrots in their carrot burrows,
early fall, frost-free,
had slept better than them.

With a faint and desperate smile, the mom said to me,
"The water pump it gave out yesterday.
Took all my money to fix it.
I have three kids there in the blue van.
So far, I have gotten fifty dollars,
but I need
seventy to get home."
Nodding slightly towards her kids she hurriedly added,
"And I'll need to  get a little extra to feed my kids."
She smiled when she remembered her kids.

"Do you have a twenty?" she asked.

The single mom (she told me she was a single mom) with
her smile circumnavigating her missing teeth
asked only for a twenty.
She could have asked for
a fair wage,
guaranteed income,
health insurance,
clear air, water, food, or
affordable housing,
but she only asked for a twenty (and a little more if it wasn't an inconvenience).

Rifling through my wallet, I didn't have a twenty.
But if she waited, my bank wasn't far.
"Oh," I said, "while you wait, I have some organic carrots!
Take some!"
She looked surprised
and said No at first (maybe remembering her missing teeth.)
But then, you know,
the carrots were so beautiful,
and her sons hadn't eaten much, so
she reconsidered with an amused
grin, "Well, I'll take just a few."

I couldn't give her what she really needed.
It might be sixty years out or maybe more,
maybe centuries,
no mothers beg
in parking lots
while their dear chidren watch anxiously.

Her sons, all teenagers (12, 14, and 15),
will look back as old men and
maybe they will remember the extra twenty for food
or the gift card for Subway
(enough still on it for three
twelve-inch-long sandwiches—
each one longer than any of the carrots).

But I hope they will remember
With some amusement
their fortune turned on the arrival of
three carrots:
one a muted purple,
one an orange,
And one a nice shade of turnip white.


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